(Note: During my second read-through, my notes become much clearer and more concise, stopped meandering, and matched Morrison's narrative scene-for-scene, therefore I've replaced my original post with the revised edition. All the thoughts are still here, just now they're less eager and giddy and more researched and thought out. A little revisionist history, courtesy of the Omega Effect.)
BATMAN VERSUS ROBIN, PART 1: THE HAUNTING OF WAYNE MANOR
Damian holds a conference with the Wayne Enterprises board! Apart from being a bit of a typical brash Morrison move in making Damian seem ultra-neato, we see more of him being a chip off the old cowl. As we know, Grayson neither enjoys numbers and corporate crap, nor is he a “Wayne” explicitly. Not his area. But Damian’s totally willing to give it a go. (Fuel to the fire that Damian is also supposed to be usurping the Wayne Empire)
Lucius, picking back up on the oddness of Wayne Enterprises he mentioned to Dick Grayson back in Revenge of the Red Hood.
Mysterious. No answers this issue on why these donations are evil. A sluice fund, possibly.
"We have strict instructions to honor the memory of Thomas Wayne, but grave suspicions have been aroused, as you might imagine." Which Thomas Wayne?
Reference to Hush masquerading as Bruce, going crazy with money.
Damian is a mini-Bruce. Heck, “sacrifice of the son” (Clone talk) could mean to reincarnate, Bruce has to manifest in this clone body. Then it really would be Batman & Robin reversed, with Dick as Batman and Bruce as Robin.
For the second time, Dick Grayson meets Oberon Sexton, the Gravedigger.
If it’s Joker, he started in the Middle-East and killed Al-Khidr, then moved on to Cardinal Maggi in Rome, Sir Anthony in England. Malenkov was already dead in Gotham (Since Joker killed him, and drove an ambulance into the river, one could assume Joker took the body with him, in the ambulance, THEN fed him to the gator). The “vanished without a trace” HAS to be Jezebel Jet, who Talia took out with ninja man-bats. So is she dead, or is she Talia’s prisoner? Confirmed she’s the one missing next sentence. Nice go with the Time Magazine Cover, a nice bit of continuity has the TIME Magazine cover mourning her death at the hands of Talia al Ghul’s ninja man-bats (She had been scheduled for a TIME cover shoot even as her jet was overtaken by evil ninjas).
So, the Domino Killer is going to kill Hush? (Unlikely)
Nothing notable about peanuts. Funny joke. Well, there’s “Peanut”, the card game.
Joker, probing for Batman’s identity? Could it be that Joker has been THIS CLOSE to Bruce’s identity for the entirety of R.I.P., even saw him unmasked for a second, and still can’t fathom that Bruce Wayne is Batman? We know he doesn't give a damn, does that constitute not paying attention to the obvious?
Sexton talks about “good men” (the Infinite Crisis-approved label for Dick), but I mean … the first gravedigger in Hamlet is called “First Clown”. And digs up Yorick’s skull – Yorick the Jester - a classic Joker alias. And the gravedigger in Marxist philosophy is a radical attempting to overthrow the ruling class. Very Joker. Speaking of Joker … anyone else just realize that the Red Hood apart from matching Batman’s theatrics also reflects “The Masque of the Red Death”? To Joker, the whole thing is a masquerade. But "Red Death" was a class warfare statement by Poe.
Something familiar. The Joker? Very possible. Mangrove Pierce? No chance, Dick never met him. Percival Sheldrake? Possible … except he’s supposedly quite dead, confirmed. Would Cyril be so messed up if he hadn’t seen his father die firsthand? Is Springheeled Jack Doctor Hurt, or is he another demon-possessed henchman? (More on that later ...)
The Bat-Cave would be frigid cold without the electricity on in the late winter/early spring. Must be Oracle and Batgirl have to work out of Babs' apartment while the de-Sombrero job occurs.
Suits of armor were rigged by Sombrero – apparently they’re staying. I recall in Burton’s first Batman flick, Wayne had quite a collection of armor. These are better still, they’re all Gothic armor. One assumes Alfred has deactivated the killer robots built into them.
Must be Dick has talked to Red Robin. Since Tim is back in Gotham in his own book right now, and shows up in Tony Daniel’s recent arc, one would assume the Black Mask take-down happens between Blackest Knight and Batman vs. Robin. Alfred, references Blackest Knight. Dick name-drops the Justice League, of which he’s currently a member, referencing James Robinson’s “new League”.
Damian feels like a “tagalong”. This’ll factor into his mood in a minute. Meanwhile – absolute faith in Bruce from his longstanding best-pals. Obviously we’ll see the cave dating back to the Stone Age in Return of Bruce Wayne # 1, Wayne Manor dating back to being built by Darius Wayne during the American Revolution on top of the land where Thomas Wayne sacrificed victims in devil worship, I’m sure we’ll learn every detail of. As it happens, Blackbeard the pirate lived from 1680 to 1718, and is supposed to cameo. HOWEVER … DC’s Black Pirate lived in the latter half of the 1700’s, and therefore Blackbeard when he shows up will likely be as a ghost or a flashback. Expect Pirate Batman to meet Thomas and Darius Wayne. Expect your answers about the “Wayne Family secret” in Return of Bruce Wayne # 3.
Mordecai Wayne (Bruce), Thomas Wayne (Hurt), Darius Wayne (Thanks, Alan Moore – this is the guy who built Wayne Manor, I guess on the location his father owned and had devil worshipping cult practice on), Joshua Wayne (Look, a clue!), Solomon Wayne (See: Return of Bruce Wayne # 4), possibly Alan Wayne, Kenneth Wayne, Patrick Wayne, Silas Wayne (See: Return of Bruce Wayne # 5, and now with eye-holes cut out for spooky glowing eye cliche), Thomas Wayne.
Courtesy of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, by way of the Batman: The Cult.
Kudos, Dave Uzumeri. Dick Grayson practically quoted your article.
Nice eyes, Damian. What’s that book “Mordecai” is holding? Could it be the Lesser Key of Solomon? Solomon Wayne, any answers? Did a Cowboy Batman ever come knocking at your door with hired gun Jonah Hex as backup?
Thomas Wayne 1760 looks a lot like Thomas Wayne 1940 and Bruce Wayne, hence why his “I’m your father, I’m Mangrove Pierce, I’m you!” rants rang true. They all have the same aristocratic cheekbones, I'm sure.
If you’ll remember, Blackest Knight was this past winter, therefore Batman vs. Robin is in late winter or early spring, and as us Northeasterners will attest – it’s still freezing. So Alfred turns on the Bat-heat.
Casket with Bat-Logo on it. Where is Joshua in the portrait? We’ll find out momentarily!
Morrison taking a minute to remind us Dick and Damian poke fun jabs at one another, this is another “Nice night” or “Robin and Batman”.
Burning ships would be the particulars of the “historical turning point” battle that happened in Gotham Town during the Revolution (According to Alan Moore's Gotham history). Orion’s Belt, known for Orion the Hunter (Keep hunting, Dick) … also called the Three Marys (Religious iconography) … also Batman was investigating the death of Orion the New God when Darkseid’s forces got him. In Egypt Orion’s belt was associated with Osiris, god of rebirth and the afterlife, and the underworld (See: The Three Great Pyramids of Giza).
Damian still hates Tim Drake. Funny.
Kudos, “Hurt is Immortal, Evil Bruce Wayne” theorists. Probably not true, but Damian is giving you guys a red herring. If anything, Damian is referring to himself. He’s mini-Bruce. Whatever happened changed him? Bruce never shared the details about Damian’s true origins. Is he a child offspring of Talia and Bruce, or a true clone of Bruce? Either way, kid’s a Frankenstein.
The cut from “changed him” to Doctor Hurt talking to Oberon Sexton rings some bells. Hey, wait a minute … what if one of these mysterious fellows is Bruce Wayne, changed? Ding ding ding.
“Mr. Sexton” in quotes. What did Hurt do to Bruce Wayne at the end of R.I.P.? Made him an offer. And Bruce rejected it. He let Dick become Batman rather than continuing to be Batman himself and harming “Batman”. He let Batman go. He “hung up his cowl and quit his crimefighting career”. Of course, that’s if Oberon is Bruce. He’s skinnier, hiding all his features, and wearing white gloves. Joker wore white gloves in R.I.P. Joker rejected Hurt’s offers as well. Joker is someone you’d expect to “strike at Batman” who would then fuck with you.
Mexican Train as in the domino game Pearly Charlie English was playing. 99 fiends reminds one of the “Fiend With Nine Eyes” … possibly the Ten-Eyed Men. Apparently they’re coming. The Mexican Train – a chain of threats headed toward Gotham. Possibly 99 of them, unless the 99 refers to the Ten-Eyed Men – coming to Gotham. In the near future. PROBABLY in “Batman and Robin Must Die” because that title seems like a great place to have 99 enemies attack Gotham and go to war.
99 is a card game.
3rd Hierarchy refers to Demonology – Specifically the aforementioned Lesser Key of Solomon, wherein the Demons are all categorized and listed according to rank. Apparently El Penitente’s cartel henchmen are all named after certain Demons … and in fact share those Demons’ descriptions. It makes sense, considering who’s leading them.
So good, in fact, that Oberon can hear the whispers of the assassins outside his door! That is some exceptional hearing. Mysterious.
Duke Zepar a Demon of the Lesser Key of Solomon, said to wear red armor and looks a soldier. Sweet Belial is a set of twins, who apparently have a binary nature (Belial factored into Paradise Lost). Male and female. Belial in Demonology is very, very high-ranking, so whoever the unnamed “leader” of these assassins is must have a very high-ranking Demon title. Note that he wears a domino mask. Of course, in they kick the door but Oberon Sexton is hanging outside the window with his coat blowing in the wind, looking very Gothic, and pulling a basic Batman move. Just who is the Gravedigger?
A little Dick/Damian interplay that may come back by arc’s end. More importantly, the Wayne Manor library is symmetrical, and shows signs of “soul chapel architecture” like the Gothic church in Batman: Gothic, also by Morrison.
Could be on one of the shelves, there appear to be a lot of books in the library. But I’m sure Bruce left it where Dick can find it.
Second mention of a railroad. We’ll see you in Return of Bruce Wayne # 4.
Conceptually with a pious man in the library with a casket with a bat on it, standing in he light of the library window, looking at a painting of Darius with Orion’s Belt riding a horse. Well hey! There’s a horse bust on the mantle of the fireplace under the portrait of Thomas & Martha Wayne. That lines up conceptually!
Dick is looking at the horse bust on the mantle. And there, underneath it … what’s that?
Three roses, under the horse. Roses, that classic motif. Sub Rosa – Beneath the Rose, a Latin phrase meaning mysteries and secrets. Roses, that modern motif. Joker’s red and black roses, symbolizing love and hate, life and death, mixing together and poisoning people.
Come on kid, why aren’t you enjoying classic super-hero shtick?! Dick has had double punches, team-ups, international adventures and more as Batman! Now it's a bona fide secret mansion mystery.
And … FLASHBACK to between issues of Blackest Knight!
Ninjas patrolling balconies. Ninja man-bats patrolling the skies. Nice place.
And now we see Talia wearing purple. With red hair. 100% pure Jezebel Jet envy. Speaking of, she’s probably got Jet locked up somewhere nearby.
I never pointed this out last issue, but Damian is wearing a white shirt and a red sweater-vest – the absolute staple of Dick Grayson’s dress code when he was Robin.
Not the best of relationships. I wonder if he really is the kid from Mike Barr’s run. Miscarried, but then grown in an artificial womb until being “born”, given to an orphanage for his early years, then kidnapped by ninjas at five years of age and then educated until he was eight years old and Talia introduced herself, ready to use him as a weapon against Bruce during Batman and Son.
Well, the name “Damian” does mean “one who is tame”. But Dick Grayson is the pinnacle of accepting, honest, trusting people. “Spineless”? Brutal.
Ring of truth to it. About a year into every Robin career, it comes time to join some sidekick team. Dick did it. Tim did it. Jason didn’t last the year.
To Talia, all Dick will ever be is the 17 year old she spent a few days in a room tied up next to, pretending to be a hostage during The Demon’s Quest. But Damian believes Dick’s proving himself worthy. Of course he is, he’s Batman’s kid brother, best friend, and sort of his prodigal son in a way, too. And a total spitfire.
Flashback over … what could that mean? Dun-dun-dun.
See the pattern, it’s everywhere? Better dust off those back-issues and go back and check for clues, gang! Meanwhile … this dead-end room is full of armored knights. And these knights are not just any knights, they’re Knights of the Red Shield. The Rothschilds. Long rumored to have ties to the occult, an unholy order of devil worshipping Illuminati. A Jewish name, but that predates Hebrew by a bit, back into Sumerian and Babylonian (Remember them from The Exorcist). Primarily, the rumors were all expounded a ton by the Nazis as an anti-Semitic claim in the 30’s, but the rumors were there before then.
That’s the sound a mechanism makes. Damian grabbing the sword subconsciously programmed to kill Dick Grayson? Totally activated the trapdoor.
Programmed you with secret words. You’re a chip off the old man’s shoulder, kid – he had his ZUR EN ARRH program, you’ve got this!
Who is this executioner and where must he be summoned from? Who does Talia know from Dick Grayson’s past is a better question. She’s worked with Deathstroke in the Secret Society of Super-Villains, and Deathstroke is a villain for hire these days. But rather I hope she’s summoning Jason Todd, having him broken out of prison and sending Dick Grayson’s arch-enemy up against him. After all, she was key in reviving him with a Lazarus Pit to cure his brain damage – one would assume she might have put code words in Jason’s head, too! Could this arc end with Dick, Damian and Jason who are supposed to be killing each other, teaming up to fight off El Penitente’s army of assassins? Hope so!
The walls are thick, sealed, and even Batman’s two-way won’t get through them. This partly explains why apparently Bruce Wayne never found this secret passage.
Dick assumes first that Bruce probably knew about it. However, in this case, nope. Doesn’t look like Bruce found out about it until afterward, during his trek through time. Here we have a chamber carved in stone. Lit only by torches, it is a church-like room, with a podium for a priest and chairs for worshippers, and lots of floor space for what could be sacrifices. And Bruce Wayne might have been here. For drawn on the floor is the “yellow oval” style Bat symbol – possibly Bruce’s way of saying “Bruce Was Here”, and scrawled on the wall in what could be blood? The name “Thomas, Thomas, Thomas” repeated thirty-two times, with the word “BARBATOS” written overtop. Barbatos is one of the demons from the Lesser Key of Solomon. Not a very well defined demon, but perhaps Morrison used him because he has freaking BAT right in his name. The assumption? That “black sheep” Thomas Wayne of 1760 sold his soul in a devil worship ritual to Barbatos, the bat demon. Immortality? Demonic possession? These would explain Doctor Simon Hurt.
This is where it gets interesting. (Hopefully Alfred is safe in the Batmobile). Wayne Family cemetery was just defiled by Black Hand during Blackest Night (The Green Lantern one). A corpse-road is a passage between a holy ritual area and a graveyard, they’re what the casket is carried down, and according to folklore, spirits walk down those paths as well. They also tie into A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and our dear old Oberon Sexton’s name references both A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon) AND graveyards (Sexton). Garden of death could refer to two things – Hugo Simberg’s painting “The Garden of Death”, that shows the Grim Reaper in three places, watering flowers. It’s a metaphor for Purgatory, which is similar to what Bruce Wayne is experiencing in the Omega Effect. And also, it could mean a place where corpses were dumped. A mass grave. If Satanic sacrifices were going on, it’s highly likely.
Damian runs through the cemetery, fighting the mental programming. He passes the unmarked stone with the top totally shaped like a bat where the clone Bruce body was buried before Black Hand dug it up.
Oberon Sexton is here, in the graveyard, next to the grave of “Alan Wayne” (I’m convinced it’s an Alan Moore nod, since Moore wrote the Gotham City history).
Of course, he could be The Joker, AND the Domino Killer, so “here to help” is crazy! But then again, he could be Bruce Wayne. Joker (as seen in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth) considers Batman the “King of the Freaks” and their Holmes/Moriarty, Sylvester/Tweety relationship borders on Joker considering himself Batman’s personal court jester. Bruce has been trying to think like The Joker. He may have realized how Joker sees the world – that Joker is “Puck” to Batman’s “Oberon”. And there’s even a “Titania” (Talia). Except the Gravediggers in Hamlet were known as Clowns and dug up Yorick. I hold firm on my belief that Oberon Sexton is The Joker, and his way of "mourning Batman" is to murder the Black Glove members. I also believe that he views the whole world as a stage play - as theater. Gotham City is a masquerade where Batman runs the show and Joker leads a troupe of characters in the noble goal of extreme interactive entertainment.
At any rate, the 3rd Hierarchy assassins of El Penitente are in the graveyard, heading toward Wayne Manor. No doubt in addition to being hitmen for the cartel, they’re devil worshipping, demonologists with some history of the occult in Gotham City.